Carbon Monoxide and Human Functions

  • Rodney R. Beard
  • Netta W. Grandstaff
Part of the Environmental Science Research book series (ESRH, volume 5)


Around the beginning of the century, several great investigators discovered much of what we know about carbon monoxide (CO). C. G. Douglas, J. S. Haldane, James Lorrain Smith, Yandell Henderson, and J. B. S. Haldane made tremendously insightful investigations which clarified many of the issues concerning CO; many of the questions which they raised and left unanswered are still being explored. Their chemical and physiological studies were very thorough. However, they did not got deeply into the effects of carbon monoxide upon behavior. Indeed, their tendency was to underrate the potential toxicity of CO, Haldane having on occasion referred to “the 30 percent saturation of the blood which was necessary for any noticeable symptoms of CO poisoning” (Haldane and Priestley, 1935). It may be pertinent to suggest that the frame of mind in which this early work was carried out was characterized by admiration for the marvels of animal adaptations, and particularly, the ability of man to make physiological adjustments which permit him to continue to function effectively under circumstances of extreme physical stress. The question being asked was, “How much can man tolerate without any important change?,” and the emphasis was upon chemical alterations which could be measured with some precision, rather than upon symptoms which could not be reliably quantified or upon behavioral changes, for which an adequate understanding and vocabulary was only beginning to be developed.


Breath Sample Human Function High Performance Level Percent Correct Response COHb Level 
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Copyright information

© University of Rochester 1975

Authors and Affiliations

  • Rodney R. Beard
    • 1
  • Netta W. Grandstaff
    • 1
  1. 1.Department of Community and Preventive MedicineStanford University School of MedicineStanfordUSA

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